Uber to stop using 'Greyball' tool to evade law enforcement

Uber Technologies Inc has prohibited the use of its so-called "Greyball" technology to target regulators, ending a program that had been critical in helping Uber evade authorities in cities where the service has been banned.


Uber Technologies Inc has prohibited the use of its so-called "Greyball" technology to target regulators, ending a program that had been critical in helping Uber evade authorities in cities where the service has been banned.

Uber is reviewing the different ways the technology has been used and is "expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward," Uber Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan said in a blog post on Wednesday.

The ride-hailing company last week confirmed the existence of the "Greyball" program, which uses data from the Uber app and other methods to identify and circumvent officials who aimed to ticket or apprehend drivers in cities that opposed Uber's operations.

The Greyball program uses geolocation data, credit card information, social media accounts and so on. It was in use from 2014 in locations such as Boston, Las Vegas, South Korea, Italy, Australia, France, China and so on.

Justifying the use of Greyball program, an Uber spokeswoman had said in an email the program “denies ride requests to fraudulent users who are violating our terms of service — whether that’s people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers.” The tactic had been scaled back considerably as the company won the right to operate in more places, a spokeswoman added.

She said that Uber’s legal department had approved the practice in locations where Uber was not clearly banned, and that Uber’s terms of use required riders use the ride hailing app for personal, not commercial, reasons and to not cause “nuisance” to drivers.

Uber has not really had a pleasant last couple of weeks. It has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

It all started with the allegations of sexual harassment at workplace by a former Uber employee Susan Fowler, which was followed by an in-car video conversation between an Uber driver and founder Travis Kalanick going viral, to a lawsuit that was filed by Google's self-driving car division Waymo over alleged data theft.

With Inputs from Reuters

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.